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               History and terms of Stockings & Hosiery

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Stockings which are also known as hosiery, or hose, and popularly as "Nylons", 
are coverings for legs and feet.
Early references to hosiery go back to the ancient Greeks. Workmen and slaves wore
hosiery in ancient times, and Roman woman wore a short sock (called a soccus) in
their homes. Silk or cotton socks were also worn in Japan and China for centuries.

Socks evolved into stockings in 12th century Europe. Breeches worn by men became
close fitting, reaching from the waist to the foot like modern tights. Women wore 
stockings held up at the knee by garters.
After 1545 knitted stockings came into fashion, their seams were often ornamented by
elaborate silk patterns, or "clocks". This term is still in use today as "fancy feet" the 
decorative seam treatments that were popular during the late 40's and early 50's.
See Pictures of our Modern Hosiery Mill in the USA
William Lee, an English clergyman, made the first knitting machine in 1589. Silk and cotton were the popular fibers
of the era. Silk of course was the choice of royalty as the discovery of the New World opened up trade in this rare and luxurious fiber.

There were many different ways to wear stockings. Silk stockings were sometimes worn several pairs at a time in cold weather. In the 17th century when large boots were in fashion, linen "boot hose" were worn to protect the silk stockings underneath. They had wide lace tops, which were turned over the boots. Men continued to wear silk stockings with garters until the end of the 18th century, but long trousers begin to appear and socks have been worn underneath ever since.

In the 19th century machine-made cotton stockings became available for women. After World War I (1914-1918) short
skirts were fashionable and long silk stockings were worn again, once again, proving that fashion and skirt length determine
hosiery fashion! With the discovery and ultimate use of Dupont Nylon in the late 30's and early 40's, the primacy of silk in
women's hosiery waned.  Silk was ultimately replaced by nylon after the war. But it was not without challenges from other
man made fibers such as Rayon, Bamberg, and Vilene.

Nylon stockings which became popular after World War II (1939-1945) and completely replaced the silk stocking usually
had seams until the late 1960's. They were knitted flat and "fully fashioned" which means that they were shaped to fit the leg
like modern sweaters. By decreasing the number of stitches as the stocking was knit towards the ankle, a garment was
created that was "knit to fit".

By the early sixties, "fully fashioned" stockings were rapidly replaced by modern reinforced heel and toe seamless stockings. Seamless stockings are made on a circular knitting machines and are shaped by tightening the stitches. Hosiery is often
described as being of a particular "denier", which means the thickness of the yarn. The gauge describes the number of
stitches in a row.

In the 1960's when skirts were worn very short, many women began to wear tights (pantyhose) instead of stockings. To
show, "a bit of stocking", was no longer accepted and while stockings fought for market share by becoming extremely long,
they became nearly extinct as pantyhose gained in popularity.

We are fortunate in the year 2004 to have the benefit of many "stocking enthusiasts", who have kept this garment alive for
many admirers. We at "StockingOnly.com" intend to carry this tradition forward!
Definition of Hosiery Terms
Denier
This is an Italian measurement for knitting yarn which equals 5 centigrams per meter of
 yarn. The weight of the denier is obtained by weighing 450 meters of thread of nylon,
silk or rayon. If 450 meters weighs 5 grams, the thread is called a 100 denier thread.
The base of 450 meters being the standard measure, the weight of the thread will
determine its caliber. The lighter the thread (the less number of deniers) the finer the
weave. A 15 denier yarn is twice as fine as 30 denier yarn. The most popular denier
for day/evening is still 15d, 30 denier has been popularized as "business sheer",
70d as "service sheer". "ultra sheer" or "evening dress sheer" stockings can be
15d, 12d or 10d. The sheerest practical denier is 7d, which is so wispy sheer
that it literally disappears on the leg! 
                             (and is so fragile that it can barely survive one wearing)
Gauge
There is much confusion about the meaning of "gauge" in the determination of stocking quality and sheerness. Gauge is an
 English unit of measure. It is a characteristic of rectilinear knitting machines. It corresponds to the number of needles in a 38-millimeter section of the knitting bed, circular or flat. A 60 gauge knitting machine has 60 needles to a 38 mm section.
It is obvious that, the more needles you have in this standard invariable 38 mm section, the finer the needles must be, and
the tighter the weave. The monofilament or flat pure nylon thread of 15 deniers was the thread most widely used in the
knitting of fine stockings.

The two most common gauges in fully-fashioned knitting were 51g and 60g. 60 gauge stockings have smoother, denser
look and feel and are highly prized! 51 gauge stockings were easier to knit as the machines had fewer needles and ran
more efficiently than the 60 gauge. These stockings were still highly desirable, but were slightly less expensive, and used
for "fashion" and popular priced stockings.

The Process
Full-fashioned stockings are knitted flat, then fashioned, or shaped by mechanical manipulation by programmed chains
that articulated cams to drop needles from the knitting process creating the famous "fashioning marks" on the backs of
the stocking. (The little V's on the back near the seams are created when a stitch is cast off, just like in hand knitting 
a sweater) The stockings are then joined at the back on a looping machine by hand, creating the seam up the back. 
The actual knitting is done on a flat knitting machine first developed in Loughborough, Leicestershire, England by 
William Cotton in 1864.   See the Pictures of our Hosiery Mill.

The stocking is started at the top with the welt, with an extra-thick section for gartering. Reducing the number of needles
at the ankle, then adding needles at the heel, and again reducing the number through the foot shape to the fabric.

The modern fully-fashioned machine was made from 1940-1960 by Reading Machinery Company in Reading,
Pennsylvania, who stopped production of the machines in the early 1960's. In the years '59 and early 60's you could 
purchase one of the later models, which they called the R100, but, you had to order four of them. The cost was
a little over $750,000 each for this special order.

The length of the machine is about 45 feet long, and it could make 30 stockings concurrently. The company started
out in its early days making a single section which made one stocking. Soon after machines added length, to make 15
(half section machines) stockings, and then went to full section machines (thirty stockings).

Tragically, there are fewer than ten working machines in the world today! We know of many inactive machines, however,
the skilled technicians required to program the timing chains and maintain the machines have long gone.

What about the needles?
A 60 gauge machine with a full head of needles has about 600 needles per head. Since 600 x 30 heads comes to
18,000 needles, knitting this ultra luxury produced became an incredible challenge. These needles cost approximately 
five cents each. That means it can cost up to $9,000 in needles alone!

Lanolizing
This is a natural chemical process added to the dye bath to improve the look, feel, and wear of the stocking. Lanolin is a
natural substance found in the animal fat of sheep that is used in soap and hair conditioner products. Manufacturers used
different degrees of lanolin application to their hosiery. The most famous was "Albert's". Their stockings were called,
"Velvetized", and contained a heavy lanoline treatment. Albert's stockings are highly prized for their high sheen and velvet
touch. Hanes and others also used this process effectively.

Modern stockings use silicon to achieve the same effect. Because the lanolin has adverse effects on the Lycra that is knit
into almost all modern hosiery lanolin is rarely used in modern hosiery.

Temperature Control
51 gauge machines are not as fussy as the 60 gauge machines. They will run cold or hot. The tolerances are not nearly
as precise as the 60 gauge. 60 gauge machines have more needles at a closer tolerance than the 51 gauge machines.
A closer tolerance on the set up, or gauging must be kept to maintain manufacturing tolerances. Factories must maintain
the temperature (summer and winter) within 4 degrees, 74 to 78 degrees. Very difficult! When it gets below 74, the
machines won't knit properly, over 78 and the same problem occurs. You may have 5 or 6 good stockings out of 30.
The others are unusable!   See the Pictures of our Hosiery Mill.

Every pattern is on a continual chain of 120 feet and about 8" wide which has studs pressed into the links. These studs 
tell the machine what it should do, so every design needs a new stud pattern, which is a hugely complicated operation.

After manufacture each stocking is seamed, one at a time. People often ask why there is a hole at the top of the seam.
This is called the 'finishing loop', or "key hole back", which cannot be eliminated as the seaming machinist has to finish
the seam turning the stocking top, otherwise known as the welt, inside out.

Every stocking is manufactured white, or "in the greige", and must be piece dyed, as a finished garment to the desired color.
They must then be "boarded", a process where each stocking is pulled over a flat metal leg form, and heat set with steam.
This tightens the knit, defines the leg shape correctly and removes creases. Thereafter each stocking is checked for size to
ensure that pairs match. Quality control for faults, large and small, can result in a loss of a third of production.

Circular Knit Stockings
Modern stockings and pantyhose are knit on circular machines eliminating need for the back seam. Circular knit stockings
originally were made with reinforced heel and toes, this was accomplished by using a "reticulating heel" machine, also made
by Reading. This machine actually knit the heel pocket into the stockings using a devise that knit the foot first, then the heel
pocket and finally the leg and welt. This created the "V" in the heel that we all know and love.

During the early years of circular knit stockings, the heels and toes were reinforced similarly to the original full fashioned 
stockings, this gave the consumer the assurance that sharp nails or rough shoes would not cause the stockings to run. Later stockings were knit with different types of reinforcements on the toes and heels, eventually reinforcements we discontinued!

Stockings reinforcements evolved from standard circular toes to tear drop toes, a toe that was seamed under the foot and
looked like a teardrop, Demi-toes, a very dressy look with a 1/2 toe reinforcement, and finally to sandal foot with a nude
toe for sandals. Heels also evolved from fully reinforced heels to the scalloped heel, and eventually, to evolve finally to the
nude heel, and again to the fully nude, sandal foot stocking.

What about the different types of knits?
Regular flat knit: This is the original knit made on all stockings until 1945. It is a smooth stitch that is silky and soft to the
touch. It has a wonderful shine and is the premier knitting technique of the era.

Kant run: This knit was developed to help prevent runs in the stockings. It is a lock-stitch and has a slightly rougher texture.

Micromesh: This stitch was developed to create a matte finish on the stocking that was very popular during the 60's. It is
soft and smooth, but not as silky as regular flat knit.

Pebble mesh: A very rough knit to prevent runs used in teen and utilitarian stockings.

Textures: Patterned stockings. Diamonds, herringbones, and waves were the most popular. These styles were very
popular during the 60's. Hosiery companies began to buy modern Italian knitting machines which had infinite knitting
possibilities that allowed enormous variations.

Modern Stockings
As modern knitting techniques improved and the machinery became more expensive and complicated, stockings evolved
through several phases.   See the Pictures of our Hosiery Mill.

Modern machines knit tubes that are boarded, or "heat set" to the shape of the leg; the heel pocket was no longer knit-in as
in the 50's. To improve fit, the yarn companies came up with several "improvements" that would forever change the future
of classic hosiery.

The first was the stretch stocking, actually a crimped yarn that was knit and packaged unboarded in a limited size range
that conformed to the leg when worn. Popular brands were, Cling-Along, Agilon, and Cantrece. The ultimate fit solution 
that effects the stockings made today, is to add Lycra, another Dupont invention that creates an elasticized stretch 
stocking that clings to the leg to the knitting yarn. This is used in almost all modern stockings and pantyhose.
The effect is to create a support stocking effect. The unfortunate sacrifice is the original sheer stocking effect that is so 
dear to the true stocking connoisseur.

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Nylon Stockings, Pantyhose and General Hosiery Care Suggestions.

Beautiful fine hosiery lasts a long time if taken care of efficiently. Putting on your hosiery, stockings bodystockings, pantyhose and removing them should be
done wearing hosiery gloves.  Using hand cream and foot cream before handling your thigh highs, pantyhose, garter stockings and hosiery is suggested.
Pantyhose should be put on gently, not to pull them up vigorously. You can find a pair of our 100% cotton Gloves at the bottom of most pages. 

To wash your nylon stockings or pantyhose, do not use hot water or bleach.  Most of our stockings and pantyhose should be washed by hand in the sink using a mild detergent such as a good hosiery wash which is manufactured exclusively for hosiery,  most washes  have a special silicone additive which will actually make your hosiery stronger.  The one notable exception to hand washing would be opaque hosiery.  While it is best to hand wash all hosiery, with opaque stockings and pantyhose you can use a washing machine.  However, when you use a washing machine, put your stockings or pantyhose in a hosiery bag or a pillowcase so they donít get caught on the zippers and buttons of other clothes in the wash load.  Donít set the temperature on high, cold water is best if at all possible for nylon hosiery products.  Use the delicate cycle in the washing machine  if you can.

Separate hosiery colors!  Don't put black nylons and stockings in the sink with beige, you generally won't like the results.  Believe us, we've tried it by accident a few times.   Color hosiery should absolutely be kept separate to maintain their color integrity.

To dry your nylon hosiery, roll your stockings in a towel - never wring nylon hosiery, you might  stretch or break the delicate fibers.   After removing as moisture as possible,  lie your hosiery flat to dry.  Never put any nylon hosiery in the dryer.

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Wizard  #27